Solidarity’s privatisation ‘campaign’ backflip

The October issue of Solidarity magazine shares the same sense of disappointment found in the most recent articles coming out of other far left newspapers like Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alternative — all of which hyped up the Unions NSW “campaign” against electricity privatisation — since new NSW Labor Premier Nathan Rees has pushed ahead with key elements of former premier Morris Iemma’s electricity privatisation plan. The October Solidarity states that “rather than mobilising unionists, and power workers in particular, unions NSW preferred behind-the-scenes pressure through the ALP Administration Committee (‘Sussex St’) on former premier Morris Iemma to frustrate the power sell-off. Activists were left waiting for Unions NSW to call union action which never came.”

This is true. However, this is a complete about-face from Solidarity’s September issue, which claimed that “the toppling of New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa, and the defeat of their plans to privatise the power stations, is a real victory against Labor’s agenda of privatisation and economic rationalism … The victory is the fruit of months of campaigning against privatisation led by the unions, involving rank-and-file Labor Party members and activists from the Greens and other left organisations”!

Either “union action … never came”, or there was “months of campaigning against privatisation led by the unions” — which is it?

Unless we are to believe that “union action which never came” delivered this “real victory” against Iemma’s plan to privatise electricity, then the only logical conclusion is that Solidarity deliberately misled its readership — and/or was victim of its own self-deception — about the viability of Unions NSW’s Laborite officials leading a genuine campaign against the Labor government, leading it into the “official optimism” that I warned against in DA #2, when I wrote: “Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and the Democratic Socialist Perspective all claim to be Leninists. Yet their common approach of suggesting that Unions NSW might lead a serious campaign on this issue was an example of what Lenin called ‘official optimism’ — unjustified optimism in the Laborite union officialdom.”

Owen Richards
Merrylands West, NSW


In his letter in DA #6, Chris Slee, a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, commented on the DA #4 article “Venezuela: from ‘third way’ to socialist revolution”, by Marcus Pabian, a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. Slee criticised the article for allegedly claiming that all capitalist power in Venezuela had been eliminated. Slee concluded this was being unrealistic “about the obstacles that still remain” ahead of the Venezuelan revolution.

Slee quoted Pabian’s statement that the “April 13 workers’ and soldiers’ revolution took real power away from the capitalist class and created a new base of state power for the Chavez government, making his government one that could not just talk, but act, as a working people’s government”.

Slee then put his view: “Their [the capitalists] ‘real power’ was reduced but not eliminated. Even today the capitalists still have a significant amount of power. Despite important nationalisations, they still own a substantial part of the means of production, which gives them economic power (including the ability to create artificial shortages of certain goods). They still own the bulk of the media, which gives them the ability to exert ideological influence over the population. The police and judiciary are still pro-capitalist, which means that the bourgeoisie still controls some elements of state power.”

However, Pabian’s article had not claimed that all aspects of capitalist power had been “eliminated” by the April 13 revolution, but that the capitalist class had lost control over the “key instrument of state power, the military”.

In his letter Slee says that the April 13 uprising “weakened the capitalist class and strengthened the working class and its allies”. But he leaves it completely unclear as to whether he thinks the capitalist class, while “weakened”, is still the ruling class in Venezuela. This seems to be the view held by the DSP’s leadership. Thus, speaking on the panel at the Malaysian Socialist Party-organised conference “Socialism 2008” last month, DSP assistant national secretary Lisa Macdonald declared that “the dictatorship of capital hasn’t been overthrown” in Venezuela! She further stated that the revolution’s “gains had not been achieved through battle with capital”. Who then was the battle for control of PDVSA waged against?

Nick Everett